What Is Parthenocarpy: Information And Examples Of Parthenocarpy

A Sliced And Whole Pineapple
(Image credit: Yasonya)

What do bananas and figs have in common? They both develop without fertilization and produce no viable seeds. This situation of parthenocarpy in plants can occur in two types, vegetative and stimulative parthenocarpy. Parthenocarpy in plants is a relatively unusual condition but it does occur in some of our most common fruit. What is parthenocarpy? This circumstance occurs when the ovary of a flower develops into a fruit without fertilization. The result is a seedless fruit. Read on to discover what causes parthenocarpy.

What is Parthenocarpy?

The short answer is seedless fruit. What causes parthenocarpy? The word comes from Greek, meaning virgin fruit. As a rule, flowers need to be pollinated and fertilized to create fruit. In some species of plants, a different method has developed, requiring either no fertilization or no fertilization and no pollination. Pollination is done through insects or wind and spread pollen to the stigma of a flower. The resulting action promotes fertilization which allows a plant to develop seeds. So how does parthenocarpy work and in what instances is it useful?

Examples of Parthenocarpy

In cultivated plants, parthenocarpy is introduced with plant hormones such as gibberellic acid. It causes ovaries to mature without fertilization and produces bigger fruits. The process is being introduced to all kinds of crops from squash to cucumbers and more. It is also a natural process as in the case of bananas. Bananas are sterile and develop no viable ovaries. They do not produce seeds, which mean they must propagate vegetatively. Pineapples and figs are also examples of parthenocarpy which occur naturally.

How Does Parthenocarpy Work?

Vegetative parthenocarpy in plants, like pear and fig, take place without pollination. As we know, pollination leads to fertilization, so in the absence of pollination, no seeds can form. Stimulative parthenocarpy is a process where pollination is required but no fertilization takes place. It occurs when a wasp inserts its ovipositor into the ovary of a flower. It can also be simulated by blowing air or growth hormones into the unisexual flowers found inside something called a syconium. The syconium is basically the flask-shaped structure lined with the unisexual flowers. Growth regulating hormones, when used on crops, also halt the fertilization process. In some crop plants, this also occurs due to genome manipulation.

Is Parthenocarpy Beneficial?

Parthenocarpy allows the grower to keep insect pests from their crop without chemicals. This is because no pollinating insect is required for fruit formation so the plants can be covered to prevent the bad insects from attacking the crop. In the world of organic production, this is a significant improvement from the use of even organic pesticides and improves crop yield and health. Fruits and vegetables are bigger, the growth hormones introduced are natural, and the results are easier to achieve and more healthful.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.